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Wander around a 19th century settlement, immerse yourself in the sound and light of a Texas cave and peer at bone tools created by humans 12 thousand years ago — all in a day. A trip to the Mayborn Museum Complex in Waco is like stepping into a time machine, except there’s air conditioning.

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As education director at Westcave Preserve outside Austin, Paul Vickery enjoys job perks any naturalist would envy. Golden-cheeked warblers. Towering cypress trees. An emerald green grotto with a spring-fed waterfall that flows year-round. But above all the splendor that Mother Nature has be…

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The small town of Lampasas contains an interesting history, natural sulphur springs, a nature park, painted murals, a sculpture garden and unique shopping and dining options.

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Springtime is an explosion of colors, blossoms and butterflies at the Zilker Botanical Garden in Austin and the perfect season for taking a day-trip to the tranquil grounds tucked amidst urban sprawl.

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When picturing your perfect honeymoon, do you like the idea of a romantic escape and adventure? Perhaps traveling to the other side of the world is beyond your budget or your comfort zone. Consider an excursion here at home. Whether you’re a couple who loves rails, romantic cabins or upbeat …

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The Texas Eagle, 70 feet long and 19 feet wide, glides through murky Colorado River water. Twin 165 horsepower engines hum along as they propel the craft through willow trees and past a logjam. Bird watchers clutch binoculars and peer through large glass windows. Sightseers on the upper deck…

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Back in 1984, folks around Elgin thought newcomer Bill Walton must have lost his mind. He planted a crop that everyone knows doesn’t grow in Central Texas — Christmas trees. Hundreds and hundreds of them, none higher than a foot tall.

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Watching free range chickens dart back and forth across Farm Street in downtown Bastrop, one can’t help but recall that corny old riddle asking why did the chicken cross the road. But the Rhode Island reds, clarets and round heads aren’t merely trying to get to the other side. They’re probab…

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Not long after San Antonio businessman Pat Molak purchased Gruene Hall in 1974, he arrived at the ramshackle building to find a shocking sight. A huge crane hovered above the old water tower, menacing claws ready to dismantle the steel structure that could be seen for miles. Molak saw the water tower as an historic landmark.

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  • Story by FRED AFFLERBACH Photos by JOSH BACHMAN and MITCHEL BARRETT
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For almost 50 years, instructors at the Aviation Science department at Central Texas College in Killeen have been helping the careers and dreams of aspiring pilots take flight. Whether you’re looking to earn a certificate that permits you to fly a small, single-engine craft for fun, or aspir…

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  • Story by CATHERINE HOSMAN Photos by MITCHEL BARRETT
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Take a back roads adventure away from the reality of every day life and spend a romantic getaway with your sweetie at the Cabins at Angel Springs, in Georgetown.

  • Story by FRED AFFLERBACH Courtesy photos
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Long lines at shopping malls. Traffic jams. Overflowing parking lots. You can bypass these holiday headaches and take a trip to an exotic land with intriguing music, food and dance that is only an hour drive from the Killeen-Temple Metroplex. Folks in Bosque County, population 18,000, celebr…

  • Story and photos by Fred Afflerbach
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You don’t have to be weird, or a live music fan, to enjoy a visit to Austin. And you don’t have to wear burnt orange attire and join the legions flocking to football, basketball and baseball games to have a good time in the Capitol City. That’s because Austin has a slew of museums that celeb…

  • Story by Fred Afflerbach Photos by Rob Peoples
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Wildlife biologists, outdoor enthusiasts and bird watchers are singing a song of gratitude to the golden-cheeked warbler and black-capped vireo here in the Texas Hill Country. Conservation efforts to save these endangered migratory songbirds from extinction have resulted in hatching a 24,000…

  • Story by Fred Afflerbach Photographs by Fred Afflerbach and Kimberley Williams
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Our mothers rightly deserve the love and recognition Mother’s Day brings each May. During this annual homage to motherhood, let us not forget another mom and her role as matriarch of Texas State Parks. It’s time to visit Mother Neff. She’s dressed in assorted shades of green and welcomes you…

  • Story and photographs by Fred Afflerbach
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Before barbed wire, railroads and highways carved up Central Texas, prior to the overgrazing practices that diminished native plants and opened the path for invasive species to proliferate, back when native grasses blanketed the hills and valleys — an indigenous people thrived by living ligh…

  • Story and photographs by Fred Afflerbach
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It’s a bright, fall afternoon in downtown Georgetown and folks at The Williamson Museum are throwing a party. Pink balloons, cookies, lemonade. Out on the sidewalk, someone slips a knit “happy birthday” hat atop the head of a bronze statue — Three-Legged Willie, namesake of Williamson County.

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Linda Keeney of North Salem, Ind., relaxes on a bench next to the statue of Williamson County’s namesake, Robert McAlpin Williamson, a.k.a., Three-Legged Willie. Keeny said visiting downtown Georgetown “is the thing to do when you are in Texas.”

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Toys, arts and crafts, Cajun and Creole food, wine and coffee, the courthouse square in downtown Georgetown offers and eclectic mix of libations, food and shopping.

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Tamara and Craig Barnhart enjoy walking their dogs on the square in Georgetown because many businesses cater to pet owners by leaving out water bowls on the sidewalk.

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Hostyn Queen of the Holy Rosary Church 936 FM 2436. Not one of the celebrated Painted Churches, this church campus perched on a hilltop five miles south of La Grange is an outdoor celebration of religion and history. A grotto built in the 1920s replicates the Shrine of Miracles in Lourdes, F…

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Moravia Ascension of Our Lord Catholic Church. Eleven miles north of Shiner at 11134 FM 957 Built in 1912, the church is normally locked so call first: 361-798-5888. The white, wood-frame church is built in the shape of a cross, called a cruciform. Inside, gold trim and walls and statuary ab…

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Praha St. Mary's Church 821 FM 1295. (Praha is the Czech name for Prague, capital city of Czechoslovakia.) About seven miles west of Schulenburg, built in 1895, St. Mary's is one of the largest painted churches. Its beige stone exterior and tall steeple stand out from a distance. White colum…

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Shiner Sts. Cyril and Methodius Church 306 S. Ave. F. Built in 1920 by volunteers, this is the largest of the Painted Churches. Situated near downtown, the red brick building features stained glass windows imported from Munich and a four-story tower topped with a cross. The historical marker…

  • By Fred Afflerbach
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Back in the 1970s, a young college student named Jan Opella wanted to show a friend the little country church with the tall steeple located about 90 miles south of Austin. Her ancestors played an important role in the church’s early years. About 1912 when the church was built, her great-gran…

  • Story by Catherine Hosman Photographs by Julie Nabours
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If you go

Homestead Heritage is open year-round, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Located near Elm Mott, of Farm-to-Market 933 near FM 308, take exit 339 on Interstate 35.

  • By James Harper
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Just around the corner from the Belton Lake dam, a wonderful cove with beautiful scenery and diverse wildlife awaits visitors. One moment a doe may be spotted less than 20 feet away and the next a hubcap-sized turtle can be seen floating on the surface of the many waterways that cut through …